go barefoot

“I can’t find my sandals,” Perry called. He peered down the steps and looked for an adult. “Uncle Bertram, I need my sandals, so I can go to the beach.”

Bertram’s brows furrowed. “The beach is about a hundred yards from the backdoor,” he said. “Why do you need sandals?”

“Because,” Perry said, his tone one of impatience, “Saphie is out there!” He sighed, rolled his eyes and shook his head. Then, he left to search for his sandals.

Bertram frowned at Keenan and arched an eyebrow. Keenan shrugged. “The pretty girl can’t see him looking unprepared,” he said.

“Be a tough guy,” Bertram called, “forgo the sandals.”

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You gave love a band-aid

“Da,” Corey said, clambering into Keenan’s lap with her doll. “Lovey has an ouch.”

Keenan frown at the doll. It was just a small chip in the hard vinyl of the leg. To Corey’s eyes, it would look just like a scratch. “Well,” he said, a faint smile touching his lips. “Let’s see what I can do for that.”

He reached into one pocket and then the other. A moment later, he fished out a tiny bandaid, like you might use on a finger. He pulled the wrapper off and placed the bandaid over the doll’s wound. “There,” he said.

Corey giggled and clambered down from his lap again. “Thank you, Da,” she called, as she scampered back to her playing.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

“What are you gonna do when the bandaid doesn’t make her better?” Perry asked, his brows furrowing. When Keenan gave him a questioning look, he said, “Love’s just a doll, Da. Dolls don’t get better from bandaids.”

“How do you know?” Keenan replied. Perry was just young enough that the question gave him pause.

Love and fear in a house

“Why did we leave Mom?” Perry asked. He looked up at his father and frowned. Dad was scowling, his brows pinched together over his eyes. He was chewing his lip, like he did when he was trying to think about how to say something hard. “Did you… not love her?”

Dad shook his head. “I loved her,” he said, his voice soft. He sat down and looked into Perry’s eyes. “But I was also afraid of her – of what she might do to you or your sister.”

Perry scowled, unconsciously mirroring his father’s expression. Then he nodded. “No one should have to live that way,” he said at last.

The book of tales you knew by heart

“Da?” Perry said, picking a book up off the shelf. His brows furrowed. It was old and battered, but most of Da’s books were like that. What caught his attention was the faded illustration on the cover. He looked over at Da and held the book up for him to see. “What’s this?”

“My mother used to read that to me when I was your age,” Da said, smiling. He laughed and added, “Got so I knew every word. Would you like to hear one of the stories?”

Perry nodded and stepped up to Da, who was just sitting down in an overstuffed chair. Da pulled him up onto his knee and opened the book. Even though the pages were battered and the ink badly faded, Da had not trouble reading the old storybook.

A fearful hope was all the world contained

Perry frowned at the test page before him. He’d heard that the Agency exam was difficult, but he had no idea what that meant until he’d seen the questions.

His brows furrowed. The only rules, they’d been told at the outset, was that they couldn’t “let Master Bertram catch them cheating” and that Trenton and Rory would “answer whatever questions they could”.

His eyes widened. That had to be the answer! Moments before, Bertram had told them to pay special attention to the wording of “everything”. Perry bit his lip and looked over at Bertram.

He was talking to Trenton. Perry looked away, towards Rory. He checked Bertram again and waved the third proctor over to his desk.

“Yes?” Rory asked, leaning down so that Perry could talk softly enough not to disturb anyone.

Perry knew though, that Bertram had amazing hearing. He couldn’t simply ask for the answer. Then, he’d be caught cheating. A faint smile touched his lips and he pointed at the question.

Rory bit his lip and glanced up at Bertram. Then he took Perry’s pencil and hastily wrote the answer in the blank. “I hope that clarifies things,” he said, handing the pencil back.

“Oh, yes,” Perry said, a sly smile touching his lips. He could do this. It was hard, but not impossible.

Childhood is short, maturity is forever

Keenan couldn’t help but smile as he watched Perry help his younger brother and sister get ready to head off to school. It felt like it wasn’t so very long ago that Perry was in their shoes – getting ready to go to a magic school for the first time.

“What?” Perry said, when he noticed Keenan watching them.

Sighing, Keenan shook his head. “Don’t grow up too fast, Perry,” he said. “I like being a father.”

Perry grinned. “You’ll always be our da,” he said. Then he shrugged. “Don’t worry, though. I’m enjoying being a kid far too much to grow up as fast as you did.”

Keenan chuckled. “Do that,” he said, nodding.

from their cradles carried towards what is excellent

Keenan looked into the cradle where Perry slept. He was such a sweet, happy baby. Keenan’s brows twitched when he heard a soft giggle. Without even glancing back, he said, “What have I told you about lurking it doorways, Pumpkin?”

“It’s rude,” a little voice replied. There was another giggle and then Amy latched onto his hand. “Watchin’ baby sleep, Papa?”

Keenan nodded. He kissed his fingers and then reached down to brush some hair away from Perry’s forehead. Then he scooped Amy up into his arms. He looked at her then and smiled faintly.

“Let’s get you to bed,” he said, his voice soft. “Then I can watch you sleep a bit.” Amy smiled and rested her head against his chest. Keenan sighed softly. He had plans for these children – ones that didn’t include serving I.L.K. or the Circle Society.